By Danny Chang
$22,765 Focus 5dr HB Titanium
4-Door Front Wheel Drive , 160 bhp, 146 lb-ft, 5-sp Manual, 26/36 mpg
5 passengers, 2900 lb, 2-liter, 4-cylinder engine, 18.1 lb/bhp
- Smooth ride and crisp handling
- Automated parking system
- Sporty Euro styling
- Eager engine that is happy to work hard
- Hatchback model has added utility over sedan and looks great
- Long list of upgrades and high-tech options
- Rear leg room is a bit tight
- Decent acceleration
- MyFord + Microsoft Sync works as well as a Windows PC
It’s been over ten years since Ford has brought its world-class compact sedan and hatchback to America. During this time, those of us in the U.S. completely missed out on the second generation of the Ford Focus that the rest of the world had access to, and instead we had the misfortune of an updated Mk 1 version with poor styling in being peddled as the second generation North American Focus. At least now we get the same world compact car as the Europeans do in the new Mk III Ford Focus. Having actually owned a 1996 Ford Escort way back when, I can actually say that this new Focus is like night and day when compared with the old Escort. One, I like the sporty styling. Secondly, I enjoyed the tight handling on this compact car. Thirdly, I was really wowed by the automated parking system. More on that later.
Our Focus tester has a 2.0L inline four cylinder engine that pumps out 160 hp and 146 ft-lbs of torque, which gives it decent acceleration from dead stop and acceptable passing power on the highway. It is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission that gets the Focus a set of very respectable MPGs: 27/37 city/highway. I tried my darnest to burn up as much gas as possible while I had the Focus, but was only able to use up half the tank. The handling on the Focus was a vast improvement over the previous generations. The steering was one of the tightest I’ve felt in a front wheel drive car in this class, and road feel was good and response was quick to the driver’s commands. The ride was very smooth and I had no complaints.
The first-generation Focus represented a radical departure in Ford’s styling language back in 1998 and it was an even bigger deal Stateside, and the latest Focus is a mature reinterpretation of the original design. The third generation design is light years ahead of that of the North American second generation, and it has a good aggressive stance despite its front overhang and its FWD configuration. My personal preference is for the 5-door hatchback, but Ford’s designers even made the sedan version look good, which often looked like an afterthought in the previous generations. Attention to detail is also evident on this third-gen Focus, I like how the fuel door is well integrated under the taillight on the right rear quarter panel, cleaning up some usual unnecessary clutter. The tester came with optional 18-inch alloy wheels, which definitely help establish road presence.